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moto guzzi v7 vs triumph bonneville vs kawasaki z900rs

Retro Kings: Moto Guzzi V7 vs. Triumph Bonneville vs. Kawasaki Z900RS

In the world of retro motorcycles, nostalgia meets and often contends with modern design and engineering. Three iconic kings of this niche are vying for the attention of motorcyclists: the Moto Guzzi V7, the Triumph Bonneville, and the Kawasaki Z900RS. Each of these motorcycle represents a distinct era in motorcycling history, and in this article, we’ll compare their strengths, character, and overall appeal to help you make an informed decision on what’s right for you.

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Triumph Bonneville: Timeless Classic

When it comes to retro motorcycles, the Triumph Bonneville is the archetype and the default standard in many motorcyclists’ minds. The Bonneville is a timeless classic that harks back to the end of the British motorcycling’s golden era in the 1950s and 1960s. These days, the made-in-Thailand Triumph Bonneville is known for smooth performance, reliability, and is often likened to Japanese motorcycles in terms of its plain Jane demeanor.

In recent years, Triumph has introduced a high-torque engine that offer more character (albeit less horsepower) than their predecessors. While the new motor is a step in the right direction, it still offers less character than the Moto Guzzi V7, and less performance than the Kawasaki Z900RS. Still, the Bonneville remains a motorcycle for those who appreciate a classic look mixed with modern technology and smoothness. The established dealer network and extensive aftermarket options for the Bonneville make it an easy choice for those seeking customization and easy access to parts and service.

Triumph Bonneville SE

However, one could argue that the Bonneville, while a symbol of the classic motorcycling aesthetic, may lack some character and individuality. Many riders opt for a Bonneville, a Thruxton, a Street Twin, a Street Cup, or a Speed Twin, and from a distance, dressed in black, many of these Triumph modern classics can look somewhat similar relative to the other two motorcycles we’ll be looking at. This uniformity within the Triumph line-up can diminish the sense of individuality you feel when you show up at a motorcycle meet and five other people have a motorcycle that looks a lot like yours.

Moto Guzzi V7: The Unique Maverick

In contrast, the 2023 Moto Guzzi V7 stands out as a unique maverick in the retro category. It brings a distinct Italian flair and character to the table that’s the other two motorcycles in our comparison can’t match. While the V7 may not boast the same dealer network or aftermarket support as the Bonneville, Moto Guzzi has been expanding its presence, and this is set to improve in the future. I might have a Triumph dealer just 1.5 miles away from me, but I now also have a Moto Guzzi dealer just 3 miles away, and another Guzzi dealer just 12 miles away. The brand is noticeably growing their international presence, and as volume increases the aftermarkets part should hopefully soon follow.

The V7’s allure lies in its characterfulness – a term that really encapsulates its unique personality and the experience of riding the V7. It’s a motorcycle that invites you to embrace its quirks and peculiarities, and leads to the creation of a bond between rider and machine. You’ll hear many Moto Guzzi owners tell you that they wouldn’t consider buying a motorcycle from any other brand.

2023 Moto Guzzi V7 review - side profile

Shorter riders and beginners will appreciate the V7’s manageable size and friendly nature, making it a welcoming option for those new to the world of retro motorcycles. However, the new 850cc motor found in the 2023 Moto Guzzi V7 I reviewed is fully capable of highway riding as well.

Riding a V7 may be a bit of a transition though, especially if you’re coming from a Japanese bike. Your first day on it may feel like discovering a “new normal”, but once you adapt, you’ll likely learn to appreciate and maybe even fall in love with the V7’s distinctive character. For riders seeking a motorcycle that stands apart from the crowd, the V7 is an excellent choice. This is no dime-a-dozen motorcycle.

Kawasaki Z900RS: Modern Powerhouse In Sheep’s Clothing

If your budget allows it and you’re looking for maximum performance, the Kawasaki Z900RS offers a different take on the retro-inspired motorcycle. This bike is based off of 1970s and 1980s styling, but leans heavily into the performance side of things, featuring an inline-4 cylinder engine that delivers 111 horsepower and a silky-smooth ride.

In terms of performance, the Z900RS outshines its retro counterparts in our lists. This motorcycle boasts the best power, braking, and suspension in the bunch. It’s more akin to a Japanese sports bike in terms of its modernity and capabilities, but in a more mellow, and more stylish package.

kawasaki z900rs

The downsides to the Kawasaki Z900RS are that the motorcycle might not be aesthetically-vintage enough for some motorcyclists. Perhaps more importantly though, the added performance comes at a premium price point. It’s priced in a different league altogether than the similarly priced Bonneville and V7.

Conclusion: You Can’t Go Wrong

In the end, your choice among these retro motorcycles depends on your personal preferences and priorities. The Triumph Bonneville is still a cherished and solid option for those who value reliability, an established dealer network, and a wide array of aftermarket customization possibilities. I own a 2010 Triumph Bonneville that I’m customizing bit by bit.

The Moto Guzzi V7, on the other hand, is the go-to choice for riders who want a unique, characterful experience that stands apart from the crowd. Moto Guzzi’s growing presence in the market suggests that the brand is on an upward trajectory, and the V7 is brand’s hottest seller. I own a 2014 Moto Guzzi V7 that appears to have been a theft recovery, which I’ve been slowly restoring back to her old charm.

Lastly, the Kawasaki Z900RS caters to those want a vintage aesthetic, but crave modern performance and are willing to pay a premium for it. It’s a different kind of retro-inspired motorcycle, one that combines old school muscle styling with cutting-edge technology. I sold my 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS, and I regret that decision. It was a sweetheart that you could transform into an absolute beast, and it was beautiful.

As for the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, it didn’t make it to this comparison due to concerns about its fit and finish and reliability.

You can’t go wrong with the Bonneville, the V7, or the Z900RS

In summary, the retro motorcycle market offers a diverse range of choices, each with its own charm. Whether you opt for the classic appeal of the Bonneville, the distinctive character of the V7, or the modern power of the Z900RS, you’re sure to embark on an exciting retro adventure that pays homage to motorcycling’s golden eras.

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.

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